Finding Joy, A $5 Bargain, and My New Favorite Word

Posted by on 10:27 am in Uncategorized | 4 comments

Maybe it’s just me. Or does anyone else find competition just exhausting? I still love wins and a successful challenge, like seeing a piece of refinished furniture turn out better than hoped. And you better believe I’m giving myself high-fives and backflips are happening in my head when Jim likes a new meal I cook. But I can allow that joy to be stolen when I measure my work against someone else’s accomplishments. One scroll through Pinterest or Facebook and, if my mind is not guarded against comparison, the joy I had from that cute little side table or yummy Italian dinner can quickly be diminished. As I’ve gotten a little less young (oh, alright…older), I’ve also become more comfortable in my own skin. God has been patient and kind over the years, chiseling away and exposing the root of my desire to overachieve. I’m still such a work in progress in this area, but I like what he is doing (I could write volumes on this journey. Perhaps someday…). But what I really want to share is about this FABULOUS little t-shirt that inspired this blog post. I found this while flipping through a $5 clearance rack of workout clothes. Yes, I’m a runner. But that’s not the word that made this shirt just everything. In a world where we strive to be noticed or validated for our successes, pushed to be high achievers and set goals that can frustrate our souls, I think “okay-est” may just be my new favorite word (and let’s just play along that it’s grammatically correct, y’all, because it makes me happy). I’m not saying settling for average in all things life is a good idea. The Bible is clear about the value of excellence in the areas which mark our character, such as relationships, job, ministry areas. But I find scriptural evidence God meets us in those activities we do for the sheer joy they bring to our hearts. For example…. I am the world’s okay-est pianist. While I won’t be invited to give a concert, God uses times I sit down to play worship music to calm anxiety and prepare my soul to hear from him. Something about putting together the good and bad notes is a picture of my life,  like a composition God is writing for his glory. I am the world’s okay-est decorator. I mean, you won’t walk into my home aghast, but you aren’t whipping out your iPhone to post pics of my fabulous color choices and decor on Instagram, either. But entertaining is not about how things look ~ it’s about hospitality and a welcoming, Christ-like spirit. I am good with not being able to pull off a designer look, but I want to create a warm, comfortable atmosphere where laughter and deep conversations around a kitchen table are encouraging and give life. And back to that t-shirt. I am the world’s okay-est runner. Barely faster than a sloth trudging through molasses. But I have developed close friendships and opportunities to share Christ in a community I would have never imagined. Just last week at the Pensacola Marathon expo, I met a couple with whom I had a brief conversation about things of faith. I’m reminded of the quote by Eric Liddell, the British Olympic gold...

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All That Remains

Posted by on 10:37 am in Uncategorized | 10 comments

Hello, sweet friends! It’s been a year since my last post. For various reasons I took a break, but I’m so glad to be back to writing. It’s my passion, my lane. And I’ve missed connecting with you. As a writer, sharing an authentic Christian life and being real is a must. So today I’m opening the pages of my journal and giving you a peek into some personal stuff. My mom passed away just a few weeks ago, ushering in all the messiness of grief. Ours was a complicated relationship at times (but seriously, aren’t they all), but we always loved. Journaling has been a source of comfort, helping me sort through doubts and questions that come with loss. I wrote this entry two weeks ago, and honestly I’ve struggled with posting it. But the Holy Spirit keeps impressing me to share. Grief touches all, and perhaps something here will be of help. Whether you laugh or cry, I hope you are encouraged. Hey Mom ~ Remember when I was little and asked countless questions about heaven? Like, if that mean woman (you know, the neighbor with the green apple trees) would get in. Or if my pet collie Rowdy would be there. Or if it ever snowed. Guess you know the answers now. I’m thinking, though, you just look at Jesus all the time and stuff of earth doesn’t even come to mind. I miss you more than I thought possible, but knowing in one breath you were there, healed and whole and free of this world, is everything. Everything…in this life has changed now. This grief stuff is no joke. It is raw and random. I’m good at stuffing the feelings down and pretending to be stronger than I really am. You always knew that about me, though. So I’m pretty sure you have asked God to give me extra help these last few weeks. He sure has been gracious and comforting. But still, this process has been harder than I thought. Thought…about so much. Journaling and sorting through pictures while listening to all your favorite Reba, Garth, and Waylon music has been good for my soul. The best memories? Goofy Christmas gifts and softball tournaments…and Jim’s favorite…that time you pulled a pistol out of nowhere and killed a copperhead in a single, long-range shot! Regrets have been stirred up too, but I refuse to let them take root. Not one single bit of that matters now. Never did, really. Forgiveness and grace are beautiful healers when allowed to do their work. You always understood that far better than I did. And now love is all that remains. Remains…that word took on a new meaning after you died. You were always bigger than life, left people laughing and loved a good ending. So when your cremated remains rode out Hurricane Irma (only the strongest storm in Atlantic basin history) in a surge-prone funeral home in Fort Myers, I had to laugh and just pray for the best. You definitely saved the best exit for last and it mirrored your reality. Writing has helped me see how brave you were, facing down your own destructive storms with strength and determination throughout your life. Life…thank you for this amazing gift you gave me. It’s such a good one,...

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Light in Present Darkness

Posted by on 1:56 pm in Uncategorized | 1 comment

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33 I prefer to live in the bright, shiny places of this world. Days of beautiful sunsets, laughs with friends and endless pumpkin spice lattes. But today, it’s just not possible. This morning my husband woke me to the news of another horrific tragedy, the Las Vegas shootings. Our nation is trying to process an unbelievably violent act that shook us to our cores. As we grieve deeply, we also question. Why did God allow this tragedy to happen?  Truth is, I don’t know. As a society we are likely to focus on contributing factors. Was the shooter mentally ill?  Were drugs or alcohol involved? Illegally obtained firearms? Each of these are important and must be explored. But the root is much deeper.  We must call it. This is a broken, sin-cursed world.  And the act was satanic. Pure evil. I remember when I was a little girl, my father protected me from a dangerous snake. It hissed and threatened to strike, but with one powerful ax swing he cut off the head. Its body thrashed for what seemed like forever.  I ran crying, fearful it would come back to life.  Daddy put his arms around me, explaining it was a violent response to being killed.  While it was reacting to its demise, its end was forever determined.  Reminding me of another serpent’s head which was struck the death blow long before by the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Genesis 3:15 recounts the root of spiritual warfare.  God cursed the serpent for introducing sin to his creation. But he had the redemptive plan already in place.  Christ the Messiah would come to break through the darkness of sin separating us from God.  We still do battle on this earth.  But Jesus, through his shed blood to redeem us from sin, has won the eternal war. It is why, in the darkest of days, we have hope. Hope revealed through Jesus. Hope which cannot be stolen or destroyed, despite the anger of the evil one and those who do his work. Make no mistake: the massacre of our fellow Americans was a wicked lashing by satan. Yes, he still flails about violently to cause confusion, doubt, and destruction. But he is defeated. His destiny sealed. Today there is immeasurable heartbreak and many questions, but we can be at peace knowing God has already answered.  I look forward to the days of no bad news. No sorrow or loss. Days of living in the bright, shiny presence of God. In the warmth and comfort of Heaven. But until our last breaths, we have the work of sharing the healing work of Christ with a world desperate for him.   (This post is updated from a previous one in response to the Sandy Hook school shootings)....

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Key Lime Pies, A Fixer Upper, and Reflections on God’s Goodness

Posted by on 9:47 am in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Hi, my friends! Hope you have enjoyed a summer filled with sun, fun, and sweet memories. I’ve taken a few months away from writing,  but with college football and all things pumpkin right around the corner, I’m ready to settle into (almost) fall and excited to blog again. So, in the spirit of the obligatory “What I Did This Summer” first day of school writing assignment,  I thought I’d write a report, too! The list is in no particular order, but then most of my life is like that so… We are now these people. Yep. That’s right. Jim and I are currently remodeling a home two houses down from us. Somehow we went from taking on a kitchen overhaul last winter to accelerating into Chip and Joanna Gaines wannabes in no time flat.  Jim’s parents are moving to Pensacola in late fall, so we are tearing out, ripping down, and pulling up stuff and having a blast getting their new home ready. So, if you see me out shopping and I’m covered in paint or dry wall dust, just smile and give me a pass. There’s this book I’m reading… Embracing Obscurity was written in 2012 by a well known author who chose to publish without recognition. I’m only through the first few chapters but it’s having a big influence on my thinking ABOUT influence. I have a new perspective on the servanthood of Christ and will forever view Philippians 2 in a new light. It’s the unnoticed, the unrecognized works for Christ that truly reveal my character. It’s shaking and breaking up my world, people. Surprise! Let’s go to the Keys for the weekend! Normally I like to be part of the planning (translation: control issues), but I trust my husband. And he totally pulled it off! The best seafood (and those key lime pies!), stunning sunsets, and a gorgeous morning drive from Key Largo to Key West. It was the most relaxing time I’ve had in ages. I revisited my past…. Twenty years ago this month…well, it was tough. I was in the middle of significant health issues and hospitalizations. But I had no idea of the healing, physically and spiritually, that was coming, and how the Lord was going to use it to move Jim and me to Pensacola. Two weeks ago I walked to this spot in my former neighborhood and looked at my beloved West Virginia hills. It was the perfect place to thank him for years of goodness and restoration. …and spent time with the future. Mentoring young women has taken my spiritual life to an unexpected level, but not because I am that awesome. They are. God is using this next generation to teach me much about simplicity, perspective, being on mission 24/7, and what it means to be a follower of Christ in changing times. A fresh vision about future ministry is stirring inside me. I don’t know all the details yet ~ I will just wait on God to put it all together. But I’m excited. So that pretty much sums up my summer. Thanks again for stopping by Hearts Unfold today. While I may not know your name, I am praying for your growth and encouragement. Looking forward to reconnecting in this journey together for Christ. Enjoy your day!...

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We’re Different…But For the Better

Posted by on 1:16 am in Uncategorized | 14 comments

A few days ago my husband Jim and I were texting about ordinary day stuff. We needed milk. Who would unlock the fence gate for the lawn service guy. Doctor appointment went well. So-and-so said to say hello. His next text was about work. Two good things had happened before noon and another unexpected opportunity was coming his way. I sent him a thumbs-up emoji, set the phone down…and started to cry. But these were happy tears of relief and thankfulness. In that moment I realized, we were having a normal conversation without the fear and worry. And on the other side of the purifying fire God allowed in our marriage. The details? Nothing scandalous and no vows broken. But we faced three years of attacks in almost every other area we felt secure. Months of seemingly silence from God about a particular need exhausted us. And ugly emotions, mostly mine, had to be confronted every day. Through all the battle weary days and pushing back doubts and fears, we fought hard to see God in all of the mess. It wasn’t easy, yet we were determined to keep our marriage strong and protect it at all costs. And looking back while those days are fresh in my mind, I am a quiet kind of grateful. For a deeper prayer life. Not one just over meals or for safe travels. But for specifics beyond “bless the day”. And for a husband who started kneeling by my bedside to pray for me before my first cup of coffee. Brave man right there. For a (more) minimal lifestyle. Fewer material items to clutter and manage. God chose to empty so we could see open spaces with room to dream. For evening walk talks without iPhones and away from anything plugged in. Those sweet, uninterrupted times taught us much about communication and getting to the root of the daily struggle. For a life disrupted, jolted out of a comfortable glide. We had it easy. The Lord allowed it to be hard. And now we are softened. Only God. For what I once took for granted. The list is long. I want my appreciation to be longer. For the unanswered. We’ve learned to trust the glimpses of God. Anything else would be too much for us to handle. The Lord has a timeline far different than ours and what He chooses to reveal, or not, is up to Him. I saved this text from Jim. Part of another conversation about what God had taught us and to remind me of His faithfulness through the broken days and building us back stronger. My husband’s words just struck me as perfect for us. And this verse is everything. “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”  ~ Psalm 66:10-12...

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The Choice I’m Making About Hope

Posted by on 5:01 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ~ Romans 15:13 For the last few weeks I’ve had some anxious thoughts. Personal situations and discussions about the political climate, along with the random worries I can generate all on my own, have really messed with my perspective. But I’m making a choice. One which I want to take deep root in my heart and mind and transform my thinking. I want to be defined by hope. A hope that is more than wishful thinking. A hope not reliant upon a political candidate or an agenda, which leaves me empty and focused on the things of this earth. A hope that is more than counting on someone to keep a promise, because sooner or later I am disappointed. Or the disappointer. A hope bolder than feeble prayers I offer when I honestly just want my way. A hope stronger than my emotions or circumstances at any given moment. But to really live IN hope. And for that to happen I have to seek God to shake some things up. Change my desires and habits to live a life defined by trust and purpose will require: · Shutting out the voices of many to focus on the voice of One. It’s my fault for letting the news, social media, and various opinions define my patterns of thinking. While many I chose to hear are positive, that’s not enough. I need to be in God’s word and in prayer. · Living as if this world is not my home. Too much energy has been given to things I cannot change. Colossians 3:1-2 states, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” I am a steward of what God has entrusted me to care for in this world. But I cannot let those things, however noble and right, own me. Otherwise, they become little gods rather than what can give glory to Him. · Truly worshipping. Not the Sunday check-in. But cultivating a heart turned to God. Every thought and decision should flow from being in his presence. Without it comes confusion and selfishness. I have known that place of worship. And it’s beautiful. It’s time to go back. Living in hope is not devoid of struggles and hard times and life changing moments of despair. Actually, I expect these times to come. But, good times and bad, I want a life defined by a hope secure. Secure because of the work of Christ, who continues to work in me and for my good. And for His glory (Colossians 1:27). (Special thank you to Ali Leonard, who made the beautiful handcrafted “hope” plaque. Check out her and Courtney Tidwell  at Our Funky Farmhouse page on Facebook.)...

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Bad Meatloaf and Toxic Brownies: Memories from the Newlywed Years

Posted by on 12:21 pm in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Today’s revised post is one I wrote a few years ago. It’s some humorous memories about my feeble attempts to be a perfect newlywed wife. And I’m not sure even Pinterest and HGTV could have helped me! Hope you enjoy! Today Jim and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary (insert happy dance and “whoo hoooo” here!). Life has just been crazy this last year, so no big trip or extravagant gifts planned. Just keeping things simple and enjoying just being together sounds like the perfect evening. Low key and easy. Definitely not what newlywed Beth ever pictured as ideal. Wow, did I have some unreal expectations! I had in mind what the “perfect” wife should be.  Fabulous cook. Spotless house. A master at multi-tasking. Reality check, please The one time I fixed meatloaf was the last time I fixed meatloaf.  I vaguely remember numerous trips to the bathroom.  One of us may or may not have thrown up. Good times. And then there was the curtain disaster. I proudly hung a new set, complete with the poofy 90s style valance in the middle, just in time for our first dinner party.  Then a guest whispered, “I think you have those up backwards.”  Awesome. There was my attempt at making a wreath. I was scarred for life from glue gun burns.  I mean, who needs feeling in your left pinky-tip anyway, right? And let’s just say never have vegetable oil and Murphy’s Oil together on the kitchen counter.  Because the brownies you make for your couples Bible study could taste funky.  If they don’t combust in the oven first. Or kill you by poisonous fumes. But I pushed through, determined to be the wife I thought God and Jim wanted me to be. Until the Saturday I ironed a dozen dress shirts. Let me tell you – those babies hung in the closet like starched domestic masterpieces. I thought so, anyway.  Then Jim mentioned I had done all the collars wrong.  (To any guys reading this: Do not try this at home. Trust me.) He had to be kidding!  I had spent my one day off on these shirts, only to hear I had not done them correctly. I cried. He sighed. Then came the words all wives must be hardwired to say. “WHY DID YOU EVER MARRY ME? I CAN’T DO ANYTHING RIGHT!” What Jim said next was probably out of sheer desperation to end my meltdown, but I know the Holy Spirit gave him the words I needed to hear. “Honey, I didn’t marry you just to do things for me.  I married you because I want you to do things with me.” Definitely a lightbulb moment. “For” had become a legalistic to-do list of unreal expectations.  “With” could become a to-do life of real experiences. I needed to choose which I wanted for our marriage. Fast forward to 2015. If you come for coffee, five loads of unfolded laundry might be on the couch. The bathroom will likely need deep cleaned (and peek behind the shower curtain at your own risk). Feel free to write you name in the dust. It’s an acceptable form of a guest book. Those things always get done.  But given the choice, I’ll pick being with my husband over an immaculate house. Because perfect homes and perfect...

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My Year As Job’s Wife

Posted by on 4:17 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

With our 25th wedding anniversary just days away, I wanted to repost this word from 2013. Not because it’s sweet, but because these are the times that make a marriage strong. God was teaching me much about being real before him, the beauty of the ugly prayer, and what our wedding vows really meant. I trust this still encourages wives today. “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” ~ Job 2:10b She really is an easy target to criticize. Married to a prosperous, righteous man, she had a life of ease.  No doubt she was the envy of other women. Then things got really…really bad. Her ten children were killed at one time. A trusted team of servants were killed and valuable herds destroyed, resulting in financial ruin. And her once strong, influential husband was afflicted with a horrific puss-oozing skin disease. I mean, can you imagine watching your man trying to ease his pain by scraping shards of pottery across his skin? While he sat in ashes.  On top of a pile of trash. So many words come to mind. She had to be exhausted. Fearful. Confused. In an emotional tailspin. And consumed by grief upon grief. She is Job’s wife. And her life was in shambles. Scripture quotes her only once, but her words and tone are memorable. “Still holding on to your precious integrity, are you?” she lashes out at Job. “Curse God and be done with it!” (Which translates “so God will kill you and make your misery go away”.) At one time I would have self-righteously wondered why she wasn’t struck by lightning. Or thought she must not have loved God enough. Or prayed enough. Or read the Word enough. Or served enough. Or whatever enough. But not now. Several years ago Jim and I came under Satan’s attack. We did not lose children, but loved ones died. We did not watch large wealth disappear, but Jim’s livelihood did when he lost his job. There were no disfiguring diseases, but several family and friends would soon be diagnosed with physical and mental illnesses. I went into supportive spouse mode. Denying my own sense of loss to be my husband’s cheerleader, I smiled and pushed through tough days. ‘Cause that’s what a good wife does, right? Then, tired and emotionally drained, I had my “quote of Biblical proportions” moment. I was angry.  Angry about the pain. Angry our lives had changed. Angry nothing would ever be the same. What was said will stay between Jim and me. But in that moment I knew… I had become Job’s wife. Grieving loss took me places I never dreamed possible. It played games with my mind and distorted my judgment.  As time went on I wondered if these trials would ever end. Surprisingly, it was this much maligned woman who gave me hope. We aren’t given details, but a close look at the rest of the story reveals she was more than one bad quote in one desperate moment. No matter how bad it got, she stuck it out. Stayed with him through his lowest days of rejection, loneliness, and frustration (Job 19). She was faithfully by his side when others abandoned him. And God restored their lives, blessing them beyond what they could imagine (Job 42). Distance gives perspective....

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“Daddy, I’ve Met Someone”

Posted by on 8:26 pm in Uncategorized | 16 comments

I was not an easy daughter to raise, strong willed and challenging authority early on. Constantly questioning why this, why that. Couldn’t sit still during story time and never…ever…was quiet. While other little girls were taking dance lessons and sleeping in pink canopy beds, I was skinning knees and breaking stuff. But somehow, I could talk my dad out of (most) discipline with “I’m sorry, Daddy. You know I love you the most in the world.” His heart would break wide open every time. As I grew up and began dating, Dad tried to be objective about the guys who came in and out of my life. Not that they were bad guys (well, most of them weren’t), but he always made me think. “A guy who loves himself that much has no love left to give God or you.” “You are in church more than him. Odds are that won’t change.” “He’s a show off and trying to impress you. How does he treat you when he’s not buying you stuff?” “If you settle for less in a husband, everything else in life will be less than it could have been.” Nobody is perfect, I would argue, as that stubborn streak from childhood continued through the teenage years. There would be more than one fight and bad decision on my part.  But, as much as I hated being wrong, Dad always ended up being right. I dated more through college, then career. Grown up and matured in my thinking, I knew what I wanted out of life. All those years of listening to Dad finally made a difference. I was strong, resolved to trust God to bring the right man into my life. And God did. I just didn’t think I would gain one and lose the other. Cancer. The diagnosis came out of nowhere for my dad, and for months he fought hard. Aggressive chemo and radiation were done, so one weekend I took a break from trips back home to care for him. And it was that weekend, I met this guy. Tall, good looking, and wearing the coolest running shoes ever. He smiled. We talked. He asked me out. And somehow I knew he just might be “the one”. Four days later Dad got the news. The cancer had spread to the liver and was quickly invading his lymphatic system. Three weeks to live. Before I left to be with my family, I went on the first date with this new guy. And ugly cried the whole time. Most young men couldn’t have handled that much emotion. But at the end of the evening, he hugged me. Said he really liked me. And said when the time was right in weeks to come, we could do this again. He wasn’t going anywhere. Life was soon a blur. Hospitals. Sleepless nights. Caregiving.  But Dad’s mind stayed sharp, allowing for one last gift of a conversation. Just days before he died, I was sitting by his bedside. Holding his frail hand, I whispered, “Daddy, I’ve met someone. His name is Jim, and I think you would really like him.” Dad looked up, tears in his tired, hollow eyes. He grinned and squeezed my hand. “I know, Beth. I just know. It’s my last answered prayer on this...

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when you just don’t want to forgive

Posted by on 11:50 am in Uncategorized | 3 comments

 Easter season holds special significance to me. Several life changing events have occurred over the years, which continue to draw my heart to God in the weeks prior to Resurrection Day. My focus this year has been the words Christ spoke in Luke 23:34, interceding on behalf of those who crucified Him. While this is not my story, it parallels a long struggle I have fought with rejection and forgiveness. God gave this to me for someone. As we approach Holy Week, I post with the hope these words minister to your soul.  With love…Beth   The alarm sounded, breaking the silence of another restless night of sleep. She pulled the blinds, greeted by dark skies and steady rain. Perfect, she thought. Gloomy weather to match my mood. A quick glance at the calendar reminded her it was Good Friday. A day she had once treasured. A quiet and reflective time, marked with humility and gratitude for the sacrifice made and sins pardoned. But not this Easter season. Unforgiveness was her new comfort zone. Strangely, dark pain had become her preferred companion. At least she knew what to expect. Living back in the light was a risk she was not willing to take. Betrayal in any form hurts. But when it comes from the one who vowed to honor and protect and cherish you, well…that line between love and hate becomes a slim, frayed thread.  Passion had turned to an icy numbing of her heart. Her friends had plenty of advice, too. “If I were you I would…” “It’s not your fault and no one would blame you if you decided to…” “The same thing happened to so-and-so and…” “I know a good lawyer…” First came the anger. Out-of-body rage, foreign to her normally even-tempered nature. Sharp words, designed to cut like a serrated edge dagger, hurled his way. But in time, the fury gave way to indifference. Not just toward him, but everything.  Family. Job. Hobbies. And God. How did this happen to them, a faithful couple who wanted to follow Jesus?  It wasn’t like he woke up one morning and decided to break his vows and shatter her heart. But one unguarded moment led to another and here they were. He begged for a second chance. God had broken him, he said. He loved her and promised to be the man of God she needed, wanted him to be. If she would just let him back in. Everything in her wanted to run. But there is no escaping the Holy Spirit and God’s relentless pursuit of her heart. He would whisper, gently reminding her of the vows she made, too. Ones not conditional on her husband’s behavior, but upon her obedience to Christ. She couldn’t remember the last time she opened her Bible. But on that most sacred of mornings, she did.  Tearfully, she turned to their wedding passage. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres. (I Corinthians 13:4-7) Words once lovely now so hard to live. How, God?  How can I even begin to want a heart...

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